Intellectual property law must reflect tech changes

Hargreaves review into IP is only first step as existing laws are increasingly unfit for purpose…

...this legislation does not protect many web 2.0 services against liability claims.

Moreover, it does not protect them against claims by rights holders legitimately trying to protect their copyrights. Again, the need for legal clarity in this area will also be paramount to allow the successful development of online platforms and other web 2.0 applications while properly protecting the rights of the creative industries and rights owners.

Internet challenge 4: Consumer rights - what rights do consumers have and where?

A virtual world is also a multi-jurisdictional world. The internet connects a company to consumers all over the world, opening the door to a plethora of issues concerning consumer rights. Many online businesses suffer from significant compliance costs due to a lack of harmonised rules, as well as diverging interpretations of harmonised rules.

For example, it is not clear to what extent European online service providers have to comply with national rules of countries they are providing services to, due to the ambiguities in the scope of the co-ordinated field, or country-of-origin compliance, of the European E-Commerce Directive.

When sending email advertisements, it is not clear whether reliance on national anti-spam rules is sufficient, or whether compliance with the national rules of each recipient is required. Extensive legal advice is needed to screen the website of service providers to verify whether all transparency and electronic contracting formalities of European legislation have been met.

Similar legal scrutiny is also required in the field of data protection, to draft privacy policies, where almost no templates exist, and to submit data-protection notifications.

Meanwhile, the care for real data-protection issues is lacking, due to a lack of standards and the ambiguity and divergence of the interpretation of the current data-protection rules.

One can only hope that the Hargreaves review will result in a significant update of the UK's intellectual property legal framework. However, this update would still be just the start.

The internet does not care about geographical boundaries, and as businesses increasingly look to the internet as a way to market themselves globally, the question of how to create harmonised rules will almost certainly remain.

Patrick Van Eecke is a partner in the technology, media and commercial group at law firm DLA Piper.